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People with low self-esteem can hurt others

SHARE People with low self-esteem can hurt others

Have you ever been puzzled by outright rejection?

You know how this goes. You put forth your best smile, lavish on kindness, and try to engage another person with all your heart.

But, the next day, this person is gossiping about you all over town. You're practically on her hate list.

Instead of reflecting on your potential weaknesses, accept the fact that the other person might suffer from low self-esteem.

People with low opinions of themselves sometimes clash heavily with those who feel healthy self-worth.

Low self-esteem ignites envy. When those with these issues enter your presence, they can feel awkward and out of kilter.

Envy of others is a complex issue. People who don't feel so great about themselves don't necessarily know they are jealous of you. They just know that you rattle their inner peace.

A teacher we'll call Jan teaches fourth grade in Ohio. Jan spent a month's salary on much-needed new clothes for a teacher's conference last year.

Jealous friends who also teach at Jan's school made her trip miserable for the three days they were at the conference.

"When I decided to ramp up my image, my cohorts didn't like it," says Jan.

While we all have to play different games to fit in with people, we should not have to apologize for looking or feeling our best.

If you look around you, you can probably figure out pretty quickly who has high self-esteem and who doesn't. Oddly enough, it has little to do with clothes or looks. It goes deeper than that.

"I can spot a person with high self-esteem from a block away," says a lawyer we'll call John. "They look you in the eye and talk without weighing every word."

John uses his awareness of self-esteem to coach individuals in how to present themselves for best outcomes.

"I had a divorce case where the man divorcing my client was lowly and meek," says John. "He made anyone feel sorry for him. I had to tell my client the truth. I told her to act a little less sure of herself in mediation. Otherwise, she was going to come across as super confident and maybe lose in the financial picture of things."

If you feel great about yourself, you can still have friends who have self-worth issues. Bragging on them is one way to balance the feelings. But, just being aware of how you come across can help, too.

"We can't go through life never acting vulnerable," says John. "I'm a lawyer, and I go bowling with truck drivers who used to rib me about my life in the upscale world. I love these guys, but they had to learn I have my share of problems, too."

John says we can be friends with almost anyone if we're willing to let our guard down a little.

Dealing with people who are harsh or mean is a different story. "You can't always be friendly with people suffering from low self-esteem," says John. "Sometimes, you have to pull back and move on. Or, you can try boldly confronting them with humor. Every case is different."

When John's daughter got elected cheerleader at her high school, a group of girls decided to tease her mercilessly.

"I told my daughter that if they hated her that much, she had to be doing something right," says John. "My daughter started smiling and waving at the girls who were taunting her. She made up her mind to push back their jealousy by using humor. Now, a couple of those girls are her friends. They got ashamed of themselves and apologized."

Judi Hopson and Emma Hopson are authors of a stress management book for paramedics, firefighters and police, "Burnout To Balance: EMS Stress." Ted Hagen is a family psychologist. Write to them in care of McClatchy-Tribune News Service, 700 12th Street NW, Suite 1000, Washington DC 20005; please enclose a copy of the column and the name of the newspaper you saw it in. You can also contact the authors through the Web site www.hopsonglobal.com.